The Coimbatore District Police will intensify the drive against the sale of banned tobacco products, said Superintendent of Police V. Badrinarayanan. The drive against tobacco products such as gutkha and pan masala had come to a halt after the Madras High Court on January 25 this year quashed a notification issued by the Food Safety Commissioner in 2018, banning the manufacture, storage, transport, distribution or sale of gutkha, pan masala and other chewable food products containing tobacco/nicotine as ingredients.
However, the Supreme Court on April 25 stayed the High Court’s decision quashing the 2018 notification. Mr. Badrinarayanan said that the police could not conduct drives against gutkha and pan masala after the High Court quashed the ban on these tobacco products in January. With the apex court stayed the High Court’s verdict, the police started the drive against these contraband items again. “The police will give more focus to crack down on the circulation of banned tobacco products. Already, we have seized some large consignments [after the Supreme Court verdict]”, he said.
Police stations falling under the Karumathampatty subdivision of the district police have been getting the highest number of cases involving the smuggling, storage and sale of gutkha and pan masala. Within the sub-division, the Sulur and the Karumathampatty police stations have been handling the highest number of cases involving banned tobacco products. These two stations have large jurisdiction limits covering companies employing a large number of migrant workers.
Police sources said that people, who are engaged in the smuggling and trade of banned tobacco products in Coimbatore district, were procuring the maximum quantity from Karnataka. The police have seized these contraband from multiple modes of transport ranging from cars to omni buses. The contraband items are also trafficked via trains as the Railway Protection Force personnel have seized them from trains plying to Coimbatore. As on July 5, the Coimbatore District Police have registered 197 cases against 208 persons for charges, including smuggling and storage of gutkha. The police seized a total of 2,757.3 kg of banned tobacco products in these cases. The police and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had also launched a joint drive against gutkha traders last year. Under this, the food regulator will seal shops of traders who are found selling banned tobacco products for the third time.
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